Reading Lana Axe’s The Wrathful Mountains is somewhat akin to jumping on a high fantasy themed water ride – it takes you along at its own pace, depositing you where it will. I was pulled along the current of the narrative even as I was craning my (figurative) neck to visually parse the world that is part of the Nōl’Deron series. We meet the Ulihi, and their intriguing high priestess, Tashi, who comprise a native tribe whose identity and practices have continued unbroken for time out of mind. We follow the exploits of Kaiya, a Dwarf sorceress where magic is almost exclusively in the hands of the elves. She is closely followed by her friend, and sometimes more, Galen the elf, who, of course, studies Dwarf runes. This unlikely cast of characters, along with help from the stalwart mining dwarves, are tasked to rid the world of recently awakened evil set to destroy the world. Relying on her power with wind and her own wits, Kiaya is obliged to step into the line of fire with potentially more capable help unable to be reached in time.
[Note: I was provided a copy of the book for an honest review]
The Wrathful Mountains is the most recent entrant into the Nōl’Deron series; while one’s experience may be enriched by reading the previous books unlike most fantasy series, this may be read on its own. One of the things I found intriguing about the book is that it builds our understanding of the characters and their relationships within the context of the narrative. In other words, rather than focus on exposition or memories to have us come to know the characters or their connections, it does so through the action. So, before I even knew it, Ms. Axe had me caring about what happened to her characters and the people to whom they are tied. It seems a literary embodiment of that line from Batman Begins: “It’s not who I am underneath but what I do that defines me.” These folks show their care for each other through risking their lives for one another; they overcome the tension between peoples through action. They show their love through gifts. Now, you might think it odd that a person who lives words, like Lana Axe, would emphasize words over action, but not so, at least in this novel. Now, don’t get me wrong, words are important; they have power in the story. I’m simply remarking that a book that seems, at first blush, to be all about narrative drive and little about character building or relationships does give us characters and relationships who come through the back door of action throughout the story.
This is a story of a heroine with honorable people who help her. There are no deeply conflicted characters, reluctant leaders or anti-heros. It doesn’t rely on lots of twists and turns or a novel so focused on the world it inhabits that the story meanders to a slow-moving stream. It is, in the immortal words of Garrison Keillor, a place where “the women are strong, the men are (mostly) good looking and the children above average.” These are straight-shooters.
I enjoyed the book, was surprised how quickly and naturally it swept me up in the action and the characters and will definitely come back for more.